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OpenEdition Books

Studies in Greek epigraphy and history in honor of Stefen V. Tracy

 | 
Gary Reger
, 
Francis X. Ryan
, 
Timothy Francis Winters

1. Athens and Attica

Chapter 14. Lysimache and the Others some notes on the Position of Women in Athenian religion

Marietta Horster

Texte intégral

  • 1 The literature on “gender-roles”, female behaviour, women’s position in law is growing every year. (...)
  • 2 Sourvinou-Inwood 1995. Other such contributions are e. g. Sourvinou-Inwood 1988 on young girls who (...)
  • 3 Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, 111 with n. 4 criticises Pomeroy 1994, 33 for her statement that women were (...)
  • 4 Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, 111.
  • 5 Blok 2005, 20. For the “probably more prominent” role she gives no references but instead gives li (...)

1The cultural determination of ancient and modern construction, deconstruction, and re-construction of Athenian history is a well-known and accepted paradigm. That women and men have different roles in (most) modern as well as ancient societies is admitted as well. However, ancient and modern constructions of these roles in Classical Athens are far from unanimous not only in the general outlines but also in detail1. In 1925, A. W. Gomme published a fine paper on “The Position of Women in Athens in the Fifth and Fourth century” in which he convincingly argued that the until then prevailing modern view of women’s ignoble position, women’s condemnation to seclusion and the Attic contempt for women was unjustified. Nonetheless, Gomme pointed to the ancients’ firm conviction of the inferiority of the female sex as counterpart of men’s believe in their own superiority explicitly expressed or implicitly reflected in Attic literature, oratory and philosophy. These expressions and reflections as a mirror either as an author’s individual view or as a mirror of Athenian society still give ample scope for discussion and for wide-ranging views and sentiments. In one of Chr. Sourvinou-Inwood’s prudent and deliberate contributions on the social persona of women and their representation in art and literature, in which these caveats of ancient and modern determinations and constructions are considered and discussed, she undertook to reassess the views on the “public” position of women2. This was meant as a reaction to some studies which claimed the existence of a strict dichotomy of the public (mainly) male sphere and the domestic (mainly female, or at least with equal share of both sexes) sphere of Athenian life3: gender-separation in the household with the women equal and complementary to men, and gender-separation in the public world with the women unequal and subordinated to men. Sourvinou-Inwood argues against such notions and claims just the contrary to many such studies: “while in one particular public sphere, religion, women were complementary and equal to men, in the private, in the oikos, they were unequal and subordinated to the head of the household, even in religious matters”4. Ten years after Sourvinou-Inwood’s study, another colleague even asserts that women were “probably somewhat more prominent [than men, M. H.] in performing the common cults, festivals and other religious duties”, and posits a “preeminent role of women in public religion”5.

  • 6 For an overview of the subject of women and religion and cult in Classical and early Hellenistic t (...)

2This paper is not an attempt to reconsider the general issue of the position of women in Classical Athens, but to point to some aspects concerning religion and cult6. In the following paper I will reconsider some notions and questions of the women’s role in Athenian religion and cult and discuss some of the evidence for women as priestesses, for women’s active and passive participation in rituals and festivals, and women as worshippers and dedicators.

  • 7 But apart from such general assumptions, differences in details of the social and legal position o (...)
  • 8 Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, 115.
  • 9 For the religious authority of the demos, see Garland 1984, 78-80.
  • 10 Many known public sacrifices in the city of Athens and in the demes were not performed by a priest (...)

3In Classical times, the women’s world was not reduced to privacy, to the houses and private spheres. Not only female slaves, prostitutes and labouring freeborn women made their appearance in public and were present in many of the cities’ public spaces, but women in general including the respectable, not labouring, women of the well-to-do and even wealthy families did participate in public activities. In general, this participation was reduced to the religious sphere and cultic settings7. Girls and women went to temples and sanctuaries. They participated in religious festivals, attended religious ceremonies, performed rites and rituals. They were worshippers, priestesses and cult personnel with specific duties. However, it was the assembly of the (male) Athenian citizens that decided about all subjects concerning cult and religion. Sourvinou-Inwood herself has emphasized that not only the Athenian polis was articulated by religion, but also that the “polis articulated religion, had ultimate authority in, and control of all cults, and set in place a particular pantheon and a particular set of cultic observances”8: the (men’s) assembly passed the laws regulating cultic procedures, the demos had the power to include new foreign deities among the city’s cults and the demos was responsible for the choice of the priests and priestesses if these were to be elected9. Additionally, the (male) magistrates played the major role in public cults and in all the religious ceremonies and sacrifices connected to public duties10. Thus, even in important civic cults with female priests, like the ones of Athena Polias at Athens (or Hera in Argos or Samos), the priestesses were only one religious authority among others, male ones, who represented the cult and its sanctuary.

Worshippers and Dedicators

  • 11 Lazzarini 1976 collected 884 inscribed dedications offered between the eighth and the fifth centur (...)
  • 12 E. g. IG I3 615, 683, 767, 794, 858, 888, 921a, 934 (Raubitschek 1949, nos. 3, 25, 232, 297, 348, (...)
  • 13 Abstract of Harris 1993, elaborated in Harris 1995, 223-228.
  • 14 Aleshire 1989, 91-92: mostly smaller women’s votives in the inventories but male dominated dedicat (...)
  • 15 For votive practice in “typical women’s sanctuaries” in and outside Athens, see Linders 1972; Clel (...)

4The earliest material indications for women being present in public religious spaces are offerings with inscriptions in sanctuaries starting about 650 B. C. with dedications at Naxos, Delos, Athens and in other places. Less than 10% of the ca. 900 inscribed dedications of archaic and early classical times were offered by women11. Only few inscribed monumental votives from the Athenian Acropolis were dedicated by women in the sixth and fifth century12, whereas the late fifth-and fourth-century inventories of the Parthenon and the Erechtheion give a somewhat different picture. The inventories liste specially smaller but a few quite costly votives: only half of the 95 individuals named in the lists were male citizens, a third were women and the rest children, metics and foreigners13. There is general trend of a discrepancy between larger numbers of male monumental dedications and the high proportion of women’s smaller dedications which increases in the gender-quota of votives of the Athenian Asclepieion of the late fourth and third century14. Male and female visitors, worshippers, and dedicators of these sanctuaries were confronted with the votives in stone for the most part dedicated by men. Only those visitors who were able and interested to read the long inventory lists written in stone and exhibited on site would notice that many of the smaller dedications offered by women (and men)–dedications which were, as it seems, not on display–existed and were stored over a long period of time. Even sanctuaries like the ones on the Acropolis open to all, men and women, citizens, metics, foreigners, slaves, rich and poor thus became a kind of gendered civic space with monumental votives offered by men and smaller, less visible votives offered to a larger extent by women. Unsurprisingly, the inventories and other evidences for dedicatory practices of “female sanctuaries” like that of Artemis Brauronia present a different picture15. These were sites in which women could “compete” with other women in the display of their status; they had a distinctive place of their own for exposing their devoutness as well as their wealth.

  • 16 For the concept of “public” cults as organised and mainly financed by the city, see Aleshire 1994a (...)
  • 17 Pl., Laws, 909e-910a.
  • 18 IG, I3, 987 (IG, II2, 4548; LSCG Suppl. 17a). For a discussion of inscriptions and related monumen (...)
  • 19 Menekrateia, daughter of Dexikrates and priestess of Aphrodite Pandemos, had offered a small shrin (...)
  • 20 For instance, a certain Chrysina, priestess of Demeter and Kore in Knidos, dedicated a chapel and (...)

5Likewise women and men performed many rites and sacrifices out of the public sphere, out of what may be called “public” city-cults.16 Plato, commenting religious habits in fourth century Athens, criticises the freedom of choice concerning cults and especially women’s religious attitudes expressed in sacrifices and vows (to dedicate/offer) to an infinite number of “non-public” gods and deities17. These phenomena are well reflected in the surviving monumental and inscriptional evidence all over the Greek world, from Classical to Roman times: masses of votives, altars and little shrines testify local and private religious preferences as well as a manifold pantheon of gods and heroes. Only few of these monuments, however, were offered by women. An early such larger dedication in Athens is the foundation of a shrine and altar in the sanctuary of Cephisus by Xenocratia18. Such larger and more expensive votives and dedications of women at Athens, which are mainly attested from the second half of the fourth century onwards, had been mostly (especially the early ones) offered by womanpriests19. The same peculiarity exists at Knidos and some other cities as well20.

Participation in cultic procedures, at festivals, rituals, sacrifices

6Differences in votive practices (different types, scale, numbers) depending on gender related performance and conduct and the consequences for gender perception (mainly male votives on display) as outlined above are also seen in gender related performance, participation and attendance in cult and ritual.

  • 21 Aristoph., Lys., 641-647, on which see J. Henderson’s commentary 1987, 155-57; for a reconsiderati (...)
  • 22 For the “upper-class” girls’ and women’s duties as arrephoroi, ergastinai, kanephoroi etc. in vari (...)
  • 23 For women-only festivals in Athens and other cities as well as for girls’and women’s role in commo (...)

7The main as well as all the minor rituals and festivals were of major importance for the Athenians and an exclusive as well as inclusive way of the representation and self-expression of their civic identity. Women were, of course, part of this civic identity. In 411, Aristophanes makes the chorus say21: “I was arrephoros, when I was seven; when I was ten, I made the cake for Athena’s offering, and then wore the saffron to be a bear for Artemis at Brauron. And when I was a fair young girl, I was kanephoros, carried the basket, and wore the necklace of figs.” Even if we may assume that such cult-“careers” as described by Aristophanes’ chorus were only open to well-to-do girls–girls and women were an essential and indispensable element in various “public” cults of Athens22. It is undisputed that Athenian girls and women as well as metics’ wives participated in the Panathenaic procession and that the priestess of Athena Polias received the procession. And in the Anthesteria, in different rituals on different days girls, a priestess, the fourteen graiai as well as the basileus’wife were included. Other processions and rituals like the Demeter-related Thesmophoria and Stenia were for girls and women only23. But even at the beginning of these female festivals the male Athenian officials offered sacrifices.

  • 24 Goldhill 1994, 363.
  • 25 Lefkowitz 1996; Goldhill 1994, 362.
  • 26 Aristoph., Birds, 785-796; Peace, 962-967; Thesm., 392-397; Pl., Gorg., 502d 5; Laws, 2,658a 8; 7, (...)

8For the festivals like the Panathenaia, the Lenaia, Anthesteria and Great Dionysia S. Goldhill has convincingly emphasized that “different days, different types of ritual event, different spaces with different boundaries and expectations, can and often do combine in a single extended festival–and involve different participation, different articulation of the roles within the Athenian polis”24. Such roles were well defined so that, for instance, the presentation of a parthenos in public was made possible by specific ritual frames: a parthenos was the kanephoros leading the pompe of the Greater Dionysia and parthenoi had their role in the Greater Panathenaia. But even for the Greater Dionysia, we cannot be sure whether (some or many) other women took part in the procession25. In addition, there is no explicit evidence for the participation of these parthenoi or of any other women at many other rituals of the festival including the theatre, although, the dramatic performance was an honour to the deity and part of the festival. Even Aristophanes’ salacious comments in the context of a dramatic festival and Plato’s reference to women taking pleasure in tragedy are inconclusive evidence for women’s attendance at the theatre as Goldhill has demonstrated26.

  • 27 Detienne 1979. Usually women or priestesses are depicted while standing next to an altar or partic (...)

9Other important parts of festivals and cult-rituals were the sacrifices and the common meal of the sacrificial meat. Since the late 1970s, when Detienne published his rather unorthodox though influential view that women were regularly excluded from sacrifices and from partaking in sacrificial meal (not at least because of their physiology-“bleeding”), attentiveness to for this subject has come up and the testimonia of iconography (like the Parthenon frieze) and of texts that priestesses and women did attend sacrifices and took part in sacrificial meals were discussed anew27. Detienne explained contrasting evidence as exceptions to the rule with e. g. a specific Dionysian element or a delegation of specific male duties and rights for a reduced time. Detienne’s striking and appealing idea was: there should be a homology between the gendered political order and the religious life and sacrificial practice–no political rights for women as a prerequisite or as a consequence for women’s exclusion from (the bloody parts of) sacrifice.

  • 28 Garland 1984, 76.
  • 29 Martha 1882, 55-86.
  • 30 Priestess of Athena Polias: Eur., frg. 65,90-97 (Austin); of Athena Nike: IG, I 3, 35.11-12; IG, I (...)
  • 31 Aristophanes, priestess of Aglauros: SEG, 33, 115, dated 247/46 or 246/45.
  • 32 For the priestly iconography with specific garments and sacrificial knifes, see Mantis 1990, 19-28 (...)
  • 33 Athena Nike: IG, I 3, 35; the kanephoroi received their share together with the prytaneis, archons (...)
  • 34 SEG, 21, 541 (LSCG, 18a44-51). The priestess received the goat’s skin of the sacrifices for Semele (...)
  • 35 Aesch. 1,183, cf. [Dem.] 59,85.
  • 36 Osborne 1993-2000, 309.

10In Classical times, male and female priests presided over the sacrifice, which itself was likely to be performed by an assistant28. Correct cultic procedure, especially concerning the sacrifices, was the prime duty of the priests29. In Athens, the priestess of Athena Polias presided over sacrifices, both public and private, the priestess of Athena Nike made sacrifices for the demos, the gerarai supervised the sacrificial rituals in which the wife of the basileus archon took an active part30. In Hellenistic times, there is evidence for other Athenian priestesses making sacrifices (with aid of an assistant?) on different occasions31. The sacrificial knife, however, was the iconographic symbol of the male priest (or cult assistant?) in Classical times and was never associated with a female priest32. Albeit there may have been restrictions in detail as well as of a more general kind, it seems likely that whenever there was a priestess of a cult she received a share in the sacrificial meat with the roasted viscera: the priestess of Athena Nike had a share of the sacrificial meat, as, it seems, did kanephoroi, who served at the Panathenaic procession33. The sacrificial calendar of the deme Erchia (Spata in the Mesogeia) laid down that the participating women should not take away the goats sacrificed to Selene and to Dionysos, which means they should eat the goats in situ34. But apart from the regulations for priestesses and for women in inscriptions, there is also evidence in Athenian literature concerning at least women’s attendance at sacrifices. Aeschines, for instance, alludes to one of Solon’s regulation by which women proved to have committed adultery were not allowed to attend public sacrifices35. Hence, the other Athenian women were allowed and expected to attend the sacrifices. Thus, we have to conclude with Osborne, that the female “capacity to hold a priesthood is not homologous with political capacity even in cases where the priesthood stands for the polis. The privilege of eating, and of being seen publicly to eat, the viscera ignores political limitations”36.

Priestesses

  • 37 For the appointment and selection of priests, see Aleshire 1994b.
  • 38 For the debate on appointments of male and female priests and sacred officials by gene (election, (...)
  • 39 Aleshire 1994b.
  • 40 SEG, 22, 116 ca. 330 BC; for the identification of the inscribed votive pillars finding place with (...)
  • 41 From the late fourth and early third century: Nemesis and Themis IG, II2, 3109, 4638b (Rhamnous); (...)

11The individual as well as the common religious cult activities in a polis–notwithstanding the gender related implementations and restrictions–were basic for the citizens’ civic identity. Priests and priestesses were, of course, equal in their central duties and functions and, thus, of equal importance for the civic identity and the (political) order of a polis. Men’s and women’s appointment to the priesthoods followed the same rules37: if the appointment was part of the gene’s responsibilities for public cults they were chosen by the members of the gene38. In case, that they were appointed by the demos or in the demes, they were elected (in demes) or chosen by lot (from a shortlist by demos or in the demes) and some of these priesthoods rotated in tribal order, depending on the established procedures for the respective priesthoods39. Priests, men and women, were appointed either for lifetime (most of the gene-priesthoods) or for a year (most of the priests appointed by demos or demes). The names of the priestesses as well as priests were used eponymously on votives and dedications in their respective sanctuaries. Thus, starting in the fourth century, we have evidence by such dating criteria for annual female priesthoods in the demes such as that of the priestess of Artemis (Aristoboule) at Melite40. the priestess of Nemesis and Themis, and the priestess of Aphrodite Pandemos41.

  • 42 Hdt. 5,72,3; 8.41,2-3, cf. Plut., Them., 10,1. For an overview of the known priestesses of the Ath (...)
  • 43 Papademetriou 1948-1949, 146-152 (SEG, 12, 80).
  • 44 For funerary contexts and women, see Ridgway 1987, 400-401, starting with the “Rich Athenian Lady’ (...)
  • 45 But see below the discussion of two fourth-century document reliefs.
  • 46 Lambert 2003 on IG, II2, 410, which had usually been dated to ca. 330, see Veglianni-Terzi 1997, 1 (...)

12Only few of the names of individual priests and priestesses serving Attic cults in Classical times are known. Although, the active part individual priestesses of Athena Polias have played in decisive moments of Athenian history (in 508 and 480 BC) are mentioned by Herodotus, he does not give (and/or know) their names42. However, only a few names of priestesses of the fifth and fourth century are known by inscriptions and inscribed monuments like Myrrhine first priestess of Athena Nike, attested by the epigram of her gravestone43. And eight fourth-century Athenian grave stelai depict women with a temple key either held in the lowered hand or carried on the shoulder; they are thus supposed to depict priestesses. The accompanying inscriptions of such stelai give the women’s names but usually do not mention their priesthood or duties connected with a specific cult44. In Classical times, apart from such funerary contexts, the presentation of girls and women in inscriptions was reduced mainly to small votives and few larger offerings and dedications in the religious sphere. No inscriptions with state or demes decrees honouring priestesses are known from Classical times45. But this is not a gender-specific phenomenon, as priests were as well honoured rarely in state decrees, although they received such honours quite often by the demes, phyles or orgeones. The earliest state decree honouring male priests and hieropoioi was exceptional and related to the immediate aftermath of the battle of Chaironea in 338 BC when in an atmosphere of anxiety the priests of the four major Piraeus cults (Dionysos, Zeus Soter, Poseidon Pelagios, Ammon) had been asked to pray and sacrifice for the Health and Safety of the Athenian Council and People, their children and wives. The decree of boule and demos demonstrated the thankfulness and “communal sigh of relief” that Philip was not to invade Attica46. The four priests and ten hieropoioi were rewarded with gold crowns and received money for sacrifices and dedication.

  • 47 Lawton 1995, 5-6, 19-21, 27, 31-33.
  • 48 Lawton 1995, 7; on decrees of the phylai and the orgeones l. c. 7-8.
  • 49 Lawton 1995, 29-35 on general features of the iconography of honorary decrees, 40-63 on the iconog (...)
  • 50 Athens, AM 2758 + 2427 from the Acropolis: Lawton 1995, 125 no. 91, plate 48 dated to the first qu (...)
  • 51 Berlin, Staatliche Museen Antikensammlung K 104, finding place unknown: Lawton 1995, 151-152 no. 1 (...)
  • 52 They cannot refer to demes decrees as Athena is absent from their iconography, see Lawton 1995, 33 (...)

13Honorific state decrees of the fourth century were mostly related to foreign policy and enacted public rewards for proxenoi, foreign kings and Athenians as ambassadors47, whereas the honorary decrees of the demes were usually granted to their own citizens, e. g. to choregoi, and were often concerned with the deme’s major cult or in connection with a deme’s position as garrison like Eleusis48. Many such honorary document reliefs show the honorand(s) in a small scale as mortal and one or more larger figures, gods, heroes, deities who award the honour, e. g. by the bestowal of a crown49. It is assumed that two document reliefs of the fourth century of which the honorific decrees are lost might refer to honours bestowed on priestesses. The earlier one depicts Athena, sitting in the centre and crowning with her right hand a much smaller female figure standing before her. The female honorand raises her right hand in adoration50. The second relief shows Athena standing, her right hand holding the Nike who crowns the small female figure standing before her. The female honorand’s right hand is again raised in adoration, in her left hand she holds a temple key51. At the moment, albeit no inscribed honours for priestesses of the fourth century have survived, there is no better explanation for the function and iconographic meaning of the two reliefs than that they might refer to honours for priestesses (of Athena) for some exceptional and exemplary services they had rendered to the city52.

  • 53 Pausanias had seen this very statue representing an old woman near the temple of Athena on the Acr (...)
  • 54 Orphanou-Phloraki 2000-2003, 113-17 (SEG, 51, 215). For a general discussion of the visual layout (...)
  • 55 I. Priene, 160 priestess of Athena, 4th century; 162 one large base with inscriptions of two pries (...)
  • 56 IG, II2, 3455: the statue was made by the sons of Praxiteles, Kephisodotos and Timarchos. The dedi (...)
  • 57 List with names of known priestesses of Athena Polias in Hellenistic and Roman times are given e. (...)
  • 58 Phanostrate IG, II2, 1456 in 341/340 BC; [Nik]ylla IG, II2, 4601 in 326/325 BC. For list with name (...)

14Apart from the already mentioned visual representation in reliefs, honorific statues were another means to honour priestesses in Athens–but only two such statues of the fourth century are known to have existed. One is a statue of Lysimache, daughter of Drakonides of Bate, priestess of Athena Polias of the genos of the Eteoboutads. The evidence comes from Pausanias, and the dating of the monument to the 380-360s is due only to the alleged “floruit” of Demetrios, the sculptor of the statue, his name, and the existence of this statue reported in Pliny’s Natural History53. Until recently, this was supposed to be the only known instance of a (presumably posthumous) honour granted to a female priest in Classical times. However, in 2003 a statue base was published, on which the inscription honours Chairippe, priestess of Demeter and Kore54. The dedicators of Charippe’s statue made by Praxiteles are her brothers. As the base was found reused in an early Christian wall at the Monastiraki station of the Metro, the editor concludes that the statue was originally dedicated in the City Eleusinion in the Agora. Comparable to these two honorific Athenian statues of fourth-century priestesses are statuary honours accorded to priestesses in Priene erected sometimes by family members and more often by the demos of Priene, starting in the late fourth century55. But in contrast to Priene, the known dedicators of statues for priestesses in Athens are always family members and not the demos. At the end of the fourth or in the early third century another Athenian priestess, daughter of Lysistratos, was honoured with a statue of which the base with inscription was found on the Acropolis56. As in the case of Charippe, it seems likely that the dedicator was a kinsman. Since the third century BC, the commemoration in sanctuaries and to a lesser extent also in other public places–not only of priestesses but of women in general–did change, it became more frequent, but even than in Athens there is only little such evidence57. Apart from the already mentioned Lysimache as priestess of Athena Polias in the late fifth/early fourth century and Phanostrate and [Nik]ylla in the fourth century, only five or six priestesses of the main Athenian cult of Athena Polias in the third century are known by name. More names of Athena-priestesses are attested in the Hellenistic period, because their names are for example mentioned on the dedicatory statue bases of arrephoroi58.

  • 59 IG, I 3, 953 (Agora, XXXI, 187, no. 1). Clinton 1974, 69 argues, that she is a priestess (in the d (...)
  • 60 Theano: Plut., Alcib., 22 and 33. For the few known priestesses, see Clinton 1974, 68-76, Turner 1 (...)
  • 61 For an overview of male and female priesthoods attested in Classical Athens, see Garland 1984, 86- (...)

15The evidence for known priestesses of Demeter and Kore is even worse: In the mid-fifth century, Lysistrate, a priestess of a secret ceremony (αρρήτου τελετής πρόπολος) made a dedication to Demeter and Kore found on the Athenian Agora59; Theano, daughter of Menon, is known by name for fifth-century Athens by Plutarch only, and the above mentioned Charippe adds a new name in the record for the fourth century; but no such priestess is known by name for the period of the third to the late second century BC60. Moreover, other female priesthoods are known to have existed, but of most of them the antiquarian and inscriptional evidence does not present or preserve individual names61.

  • 62 IG, I3, 35, 36. For the instalment and salary of the priestess, Parker 1996, 125-127, for the deve (...)
  • 63 IG, I3, 136, 383 with commentaries of M. H. Jameson, for the context of the new or expanded cult o (...)
  • 64 IG, II2, 1356 (LSCG, 28). The names of the other gods and deities are not preserved in the fragmen (...)

16Instead, we have other information on some cults with women priests. Comparable to the extraordinary fifth-century inscriptions for the instalment or extension of the cult of Athena Nike, the building of the sanctuary and the rules for recruitment of the priestess62 there are at least two fourth-century inscriptions regarding the establishment of priesthoods and the perquisites of the priests and priestesses. The decree about the establishment of the “public” cult of the Thracian goddess Bendis made provisions for the choice of a priest and a priestess chosen of all Athenians63. And in another inscription provisions are laid down for the remuneration and reward for sacrifices of priestesses of the Heroines, of Dionyos Anthios, of Hera, Demeter Chloe and of other priestesses, who should receive hides, meat, honey etc. from their sacrifices64.

17These few notes were not meant to be extensive and comprehensive; they were meant to put us on guard not to overemphasize the position of women in religion–which was of course in many ways (as dedicators, participants in rituals and cults, as priestesses) equal to the position of men, but in other ways also subordinate to men (smaller dedications than men in common sanctuaries, reduced possibilities to participate in common festivals and rites, male officials sacrificed, demos and boule decided on all things concerning cult and religion).

  • 65 Outside Athens, a fourth-century complaint of a priestess of Demeter in Arkesine (Amorgos) about s (...)
  • 66 IG, II2, 659,17, see also above note 41; SEG, 33, 115.

18Even in the case of the priesthoods there are differences in relation to the priestesses possibilities to act outside her proper domain, the sanctuary. Starting in the late fourth century, it seem to have become obligatory for magistrates and priests (of “public” cults) to report the successful sacrifices to the boule whereupon they were honoured with a decree by boule and demos. The (Hellenistic) evidence for such priestesses’ reports in Athens makes clear that their public role was limited to their sacrificial and ritual role in the narrowest sense and–at least in Athens–stopped at the moment when women priests would intrude into the male sphere of the public assemblies65. In 287/286 a male relative (tutor) of a priestess of Aphrodite Pandemos made such a report instead of her and in 247/246 the son of a priestess of Aglauros reported in her place to the boule and requested the usual honours for his mother.66

19The summary may sound banal to most readers, but in my view it seems necessary in the context of recent publications: women are not of equal importance in all aspects concerning cult and religion in Athens. The male citizens decided on all religious (as on all other) matters, the male officials (generals, archons and other important and less important magistrates) presided over most of the rituals and sacrifices in peacetime and during war, in polis and demes. In the context of many public sacrifices we hear of the presiding and responsible officials, archon, strategos, demarch etc. And apart from the many sacrifices of officials as a means to honour the gods and receive good omina and protection for an undertaking or the meeting of an assembly, it were men who competed in the many religious festivals for the first prize, for praise and honour in poetry, music, sports as a specific way to express their devotion to the gods and the polis. The organisation and financial control of festivals and cults were also in the hands of men voted or chosen by lot and, at least for the major Athenian cults, not in the hands of the priests and priestesses.

20Nevertheless, there is absolutely no difference in importance or reputation between priestesses and priests, male and female cult subordinates–not only in Athens but also in other Greek cities of Classical and Hellenistic times. And there is nothing that refutes Sourvinou-Inwood’s statement that “women did have an important public role in ritual (1995, 116)”. Of course they had, not only as priestesses and subordinate cult officials, but also as participants in processions and festivals, as worshippers and dedicators.

  • 67 IG, II2, 1361.
  • 68 Hierophant and daduch served together with the priestess: with prosopographical lists, see Clinton (...)

21But apart from the question of the factual (not the unquestioned legal) dependence on men in their daily life including the financing of more or less expensive votives or sacrifices, even in the case of the priestesses, there are also gender-based differences. They can be observed in (self-representation, and, perhaps, in number as goddesses and female deities were sometimes attended by male priests (e. g. the priest of Aphrodite67, the priests of Demeter and Kore68) whereas only few female priesthoods are attested for gods and male deities as for example the Phythia, priestess of Apollo in Delphi. The most important gender-related difference for this kind of public activity, however, was, that in sharp distinction to men’s activities and possibilities, it was the only way for a woman to act officially in public for the public, the polis.

Notes

1 The literature on “gender-roles”, female behaviour, women’s position in law is growing every year. An excellent overview with different methodological approaches is given in the collection Schmitt Pantel (ed.), 1991, with papers of P. Schmitt Pantel, N. Loraux, G. Sissa, F. Lissarrague, C. Leduc and L. Bruit Zaidman. Extensive bibliographies on women in Classical Athens are found in most introductions to the subject; literature and bibliographies are easy to find in the Internet with the updated “Diotima”-Bibliography ( http://www.stoa.org/diotima) or the Bibliotheca Classica Selecta Bibliography on “Vie social–Situation de la femme” ( http://bcs.fltr.ucl.ac.be/Femm.html).

2 Sourvinou-Inwood 1995. Other such contributions are e. g. Sourvinou-Inwood 1988 on young girls who served Artemis as “bears” at the Attic sanctuaries of Brauron and Mounichia, and 1985 on the semantic and iconographic importance of palm-trees for unmarried girls.

3 Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, 111 with n. 4 criticises Pomeroy 1994, 33 for her statement that women were reduced to the domestic world; she also noted (111 with n. 3) that e. g. Just 1989, 105-125 overestimated women’s seclusion and confinement in Classical Athens and (111 with n. 5) that Foxhall 1989, 23 implied that women were equal to men in the domestic field. Furthermore, Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, 111-12, 114-15 warns against the use of comparative or anthropological studies of modern Mediterranean societies as models for the study of the ancient Greek world.

4 Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, 111.

5 Blok 2005, 20. For the “probably more prominent” role she gives no references but instead gives literature on the general subject of “the role of women in public cult”, inter alia Sourvinou-Inwood. In note 73 referring to the “pre-eminent” role she solely refers to Sourvinou-Inwood’s (1995) paper as a proof for her claim. Blok’s rather astonishing view that women probably played a more prominent role in Athenian religion than men might, however, be a misunderstanding of Sourvinou-Inwood, e. g. referring to (114) a short account of a fragment of Euripides’Melanippe Desmotis. Here Sourvinou-Inwood refers to the female speaker in Euripides and her (probably Melanippe’s) arguments for women’s superiority to men: they are indispensable in oikos and religion. One argument is that women “played the most important part in religion.” But this is the assertion of Euripides’speaker cited by Sourvinou-Inwood, not Sourvinou-Inwood’s claim. Blok might as well have mistaken a half-sentence of Sourvinou-Inwood’s summary (118): “the role of women in the public sphere of religion had a much more important significance than is allowed by studies” etc., the comparative “much more” perhaps taken by Blok not as related to some modern studies, but to Athenian men.

6 For an overview of the subject of women and religion and cult in Classical and early Hellenistic times, see Dillon 2002.

7 But apart from such general assumptions, differences in details of the social and legal position of women are enormous: although Greek women were under tutelage the handling of women’s legal conditions and by consequence their social and economic position could differ greatly by time and place.

8 Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, 115.

9 For the religious authority of the demos, see Garland 1984, 78-80.

10 Many known public sacrifices in the city of Athens and in the demes were not performed by a priest or priestess but by one of the officials (elected or drawn by lot), e. g. demarch or the archon polemarchos, who performed the sacrifices for Artemis Agrotera and Enyalios, [Arist.], Ath. Pol., 58,1. For the duties of the magistrates in connection with sacrifices and other rites, see Garland 1984, 111-113; Gauthier 1985, 116-117.

11 Lazzarini 1976 collected 884 inscribed dedications offered between the eighth and the fifth centuries, found in sanctuaries all over the Greek world. Only 80 such votives were dedicated by women. Some of these dedications had been offerings as tenth, dekate. Only few votives of women made statements of wealth and prestige. Most of the objects obviously offered by women were not very expensive offerings of pines, fibulae, mirrors, necklaces, most often without inscriptions. Objects like pins (uncommon as votives in archaic Athens), mirrors (on the Athenian, see Ridgway 1987, 402-403), statuettes or korai, which might have represented goddesses if offered in sanctuaries, sometimes bore inscriptions.

12 E. g. IG I3 615, 683, 767, 794, 858, 888, 921a, 934 (Raubitschek 1949, nos. 3, 25, 232, 297, 348, 369, 378, 380; Lazzarini 1976, 3, 46, 251 609b, 617, 620, 649b, 666), cf. Ridgway 1987 on women’s votives and dedications, Geagan 1996, 150, for the development of votive types and dedicatory practices on the Acropolis. For an overview of female offering practices in the Greek world of Classical and Hellenistic times, see Kron 1996, 155-171.

13 Abstract of Harris 1993, elaborated in Harris 1995, 223-228.

14 Aleshire 1989, 91-92: mostly smaller women’s votives in the inventories but male dominated dedications on stone in the Asclepieion. For discrepancies in counting and ratio-analysis, see Kron 1996, 165.

15 For votive practice in “typical women’s sanctuaries” in and outside Athens, see Linders 1972; Cleland 2005; Kron 1992.

16 For the concept of “public” cults as organised and mainly financed by the city, see Aleshire 1994a, Sourvinou-Inwood 1990/2000, 30-32, Parker 1996, 5-7.

17 Pl., Laws, 909e-910a.

18 IG, I3, 987 (IG, II2, 4548; LSCG Suppl. 17a). For a discussion of inscriptions and related monuments with reference to the earlier literature, see Purvis 2003, 15-32.

19 Menekrateia, daughter of Dexikrates and priestess of Aphrodite Pandemos, had offered a small shrine together with her son, IG, II2, 4596 (350-320 BC). A priestess of the city shrine of Artemis Agrotera, offered an altar to her goddess, obviously outside the city’s Artemis-precinct in another part of Athens, IG, II2, 4573 (ca. 350 BC).

20 For instance, a certain Chrysina, priestess of Demeter and Kore in Knidos, dedicated a chapel and a cult statue to the two goddesses in the second half of the fourth century, I. Knidos, 131.

21 Aristoph., Lys., 641-647, on which see J. Henderson’s commentary 1987, 155-57; for a reconsideration of the young girls’ ritual of arkteia in the cult of Artemis, see Cole 1984, esp. note 29 on Aristoph., Lys.

22 For the “upper-class” girls’ and women’s duties as arrephoroi, ergastinai, kanephoroi etc. in various cults and festivals, see Lefkowitz 1996, Brulé 1987, 79ff.; for the question of a function of these roles and duties for the “rites de passage” of young girls, see Cole 1984, Brulé 1987, 87 and passim.

23 For women-only festivals in Athens and other cities as well as for girls’and women’s role in common cults, see Brulé 1987, 79-105 (Athena); 179-236 (Artemis), Dillon 2002, 109-138, Cole 2004, 178-225 (Artemis). For the Thesmophoria, see Deubner 1932, 50-60; Detienne 1979; Kron 1992. For exclusion from a cult, a sanctuary, a specific ritual of either sex in sacred laws, see Osborne 1993-2000, 302-304; Cole 2004, 92-145; Horster 2004, 104-105.

24 Goldhill 1994, 363.

25 Lefkowitz 1996; Goldhill 1994, 362.

26 Aristoph., Birds, 785-796; Peace, 962-967; Thesm., 392-397; Pl., Gorg., 502d 5; Laws, 2,658a 8; 7,816 3 6,817 b-c 1. A collection, translation and short discussion of the testimonia is presented by Podlecki 1990, 32-43; for further discussion, see Henderson 1991 and Goldhill 1994. All agree that the evidence is inconclusive; Podlecki and Henderson favour the idea of women as audience in theatre whereas Goldhill argues–to my mind convincingly–that in classical times the gendered space of the Athenian polis makes it more likely that their is no ritual frame and no defined role for a female audience in the theatre.

27 Detienne 1979. Usually women or priestesses are depicted while standing next to an altar or participating in a procession. Apart from the general question of the frequency of animal sacrifices by women in relation to men, the illustration of the actual killing of the sacrificial animal (by men) is extremely rare in reliefs and vase paintings, cf. van Straten 1995, 2005, 19-21; but see a vase fragment depicting a woman with a knife, Knigge 1982, 153; 168 n. 17. Before Detienne’s publication, the generally accepted view (see Martha 1882, Burkert 1985) was that women did not do the actual killing of the sacrificial animals; that they had specific duties (like the ritual cry, ololuge) in specific rituals, and in general were allowed to take part in the ritual, the sacrifice and the sacrificial meal; that in a few cults women were excluded as in a few other cults men were excluded. For a short review of the pre-Detienne positions and a discussion of Detienne 1979 and his influence, see Osborne 1993/2000 and see as well the extensive discussion by Connelly 2007, 179-200. Without such a general discussion but with many examples of Athenian and non-Athenian evidence for women taking part in sacrifice and/or sacrificial meal, cf. Dillon 2002, 236-246.

28 Garland 1984, 76.

29 Martha 1882, 55-86.

30 Priestess of Athena Polias: Eur., frg. 65,90-97 (Austin); of Athena Nike: IG, I 3, 35.11-12; IG, II2, 403 ca. third quarter of the fourth century; basilinna and gerarai: [Dem.] 59,73, 78.

31 Aristophanes, priestess of Aglauros: SEG, 33, 115, dated 247/46 or 246/45.

32 For the priestly iconography with specific garments and sacrificial knifes, see Mantis 1990, 19-28 and passim; Scholl 1996, 142-147.

33 Athena Nike: IG, I 3, 35; the kanephoroi received their share together with the prytaneis, archons, strategoi, taxiarchs, treasurers of the goddess, hieropoioi and the Athenians processing: IG, II2, 334.8-16.

34 SEG, 21, 541 (LSCG, 18a44-51). The priestess received the goat’s skin of the sacrifices for Semele and for Dionysos.

35 Aesch. 1,183, cf. [Dem.] 59,85.

36 Osborne 1993-2000, 309.

37 For the appointment and selection of priests, see Aleshire 1994b.

38 For the debate on appointments of male and female priests and sacred officials by gene (election, sortition, inheritance) and the hereditary domination of certain families within the gene, see Clinton 1974, 10, 44-47, 67-67, 76; Aleshire 1994b, 327-335 and Parker 1996, 56-66, 284-327.

39 Aleshire 1994b.

40 SEG, 22, 116 ca. 330 BC; for the identification of the inscribed votive pillars finding place with a sanctuary of Artemis Aristoboule, see Threpsiades, Vanderpool 1964.

41 From the late fourth and early third century: Nemesis and Themis IG, II2, 3109, 4638b (Rhamnous); Aphrodite Pandemos IG, II2, 659 (improved text LSCG, 73-74 no. 39) dated 283/282; for the text and the letter-cutter of 659, see Tracy 1995, 158 and 2003, 49. Parker 1996, 48 assumes that the cult might have already been established by Solon. The female priesthood in Eileithyia IG, II2, 4682 is also used for dating purposes in a votive’s inscription.

42 Hdt. 5,72,3; 8.41,2-3, cf. Plut., Them., 10,1. For an overview of the known priestesses of the Athena Polias with a more detailed discussion see Lewis 1955, Dillon 2002, 84-104, Connelly 2007, 59-64, and the references n. 57 below.

43 Papademetriou 1948-1949, 146-152 (SEG, 12, 80).

44 For funerary contexts and women, see Ridgway 1987, 400-401, starting with the “Rich Athenian Lady’s” cremation grave c. a. 850 (p. 400). For attic grave stelai with women holding temple keys, see Mantis 1990, 44-59 and passim; Scholl 1996, 135-142 with six grave stelai (Kat. 49, 206, 233, 275, 295, 520), Kosmopoulou 2001, 292-299, 311-316 (P1-10) with eight such gravestones: SEG, 22, 199 (P1; Clairmont 1993, no. 1,248), IG, II2, 13062 (P4; Clairmont 1993, no. 1,350a), IG, II2, 12292 (P6; Clairmont 1993, no. 2,362), IG, II2, 6288 (P7; Clairmont 1993, no. 1,934), Aristagora (P9; Clairmont 1993, no. 1,325) and without inscription (P2; P5; P8, Clairmont 1993, no. 1,316, 3,390b, 4,358). Kosmopoulou adds two more priestesses: one with a tympanon (P3), another one with hydria and praying gesture (P10; Clairmont 1993, no. 1,334). For the discussion concerning the tympana in grave stelai as indicators for a female priesthood of Kybele, see Mantis 1990, 49-50 who only associates the tympanon holders to Kybele (members of a thiasos?), whereas Kosmopoulou 2001, 296 and Clairmont 1993, 13-14 (p. 18) identify them as priestesses.

45 But see below the discussion of two fourth-century document reliefs.

46 Lambert 2003 on IG, II2, 410, which had usually been dated to ca. 330, see Veglianni-Terzi 1997, 115-116. There is only one more such state decree known of the fourth century, two other were decreed by a phyle and demes: IG, II2, 354 + SEG, 17, 14 (328/327 BC) for a priest of Asclepios by the Athenian demos; IG, II2, 1140 (386/385 BC) for a priest of Pandion by the phyle of Kekropis, cf. Veglianni-Terzi 1997, 120-121; SEG, 39, 148 for a priest of Heracles by the demes of Kyantidai and Ionidai, cf. Veglianni-Terzi 1997, 136. For priests belonging to the demes, see Feaver 1957, 153-154, Garland 1984, 108-109, for grants of honour to priests, Feaver 1957, 156-157. For documentary reliefs honouring priests or cult epimeletes by phyles, orgeones, see Lawton 1995, no. 47, 61, 145.

47 Lawton 1995, 5-6, 19-21, 27, 31-33.

48 Lawton 1995, 7; on decrees of the phylai and the orgeones l. c. 7-8.

49 Lawton 1995, 29-35 on general features of the iconography of honorary decrees, 40-63 on the iconography of deities, heroes, personifications and mortals.

50 Athens, AM 2758 + 2427 from the Acropolis: Lawton 1995, 125 no. 91, plate 48 dated to the first quarter of the fourth century.

51 Berlin, Staatliche Museen Antikensammlung K 104, finding place unknown: Lawton 1995, 151-152 no. 164, plate 86 dated to the second half of the fourth century.

52 They cannot refer to demes decrees as Athena is absent from their iconography, see Lawton 1995, 33, and one of the reliefs was found on the Acropolis. In these cases exceptional services are likely as the honour of an honorific inscription with state documentary relief as part of an honour is rather exceptional. However, perhaps at least one such honorific state document relief for a male priest has also survived: IG, II2, 171 with Lawton 1995, 147-148 no. 153, plate 81 honours Antikleides, who is perhaps a priest of Amphiaraos. Additionally, on a non-state honorary relief, apparently of the phyle Antiochis, a man who holds a large sacrificial knife is honoured with a crown. He is likely to have been the priest of Antiochis: Lawton 1995, 143-144 no. 145 plate 77.

53 Pausanias had seen this very statue representing an old woman near the temple of Athena on the Acropolis Paus. 1,27,4 (old woman, diakonos of Lysimache); Plin., Nat. Hist., 34,19,76 (Demetrios). Lysimache, daughter of Drakontides, had served as priestess of Athena Polias at Athens for sixty-four years. If the date of about 380/360 is right, then she would be not only the first priestess but also the first woman, whose statue was allowed to be erected in a sanctuary. A circular base for a bronze statue from the Acropolis is usually linked to Pausanias account. The base has a fragmentary inscription, the names of the honoured person (a daughter of Drako[ntides]) and the sculptor’s name have perished (IG, II2, 3453 with CEG, II, 757). In contrast to IG, P. A. Hansen (CEG) completes the fragmentary inscription as a metrical text, which seems plausible. He gives his supplements with a lot of question-marks. Though the inscription does not confer to a honorary decree and state permission, it is generally assumed, that this was a precondition for the dedication of the statue on the Acropolis. For a discussion of the inscription, the statue and Demetrios’ other known works, see Lewis 1955, 4-6; Kron 1996, 143-145; Dillon 2002, 316 n. 19.

54 Orphanou-Phloraki 2000-2003, 113-17 (SEG, 51, 215). For a general discussion of the visual layout and graphic organization of such honorary texts on statue bases on the Acropolis, see Keesling 2003.

55 I. Priene, 160 priestess of Athena, 4th century; 162 one large base with inscriptions of two priestesses of Athena and one priest of Dionysos; 170 priestess of Demeter and Kore, second century; 172 priestess of Demeter and Kore fourth/third century; 173 priestess of Demeter and Kore third century.

56 IG, II2, 3455: the statue was made by the sons of Praxiteles, Kephisodotos and Timarchos. The dedicator is a son of a Polyeuktos, on whose ancestors and family see Davies 1971, 169-173.

57 List with names of known priestesses of Athena Polias in Hellenistic and Roman times are given e. g. in Lewis 1955, 8-12 and Aleshire 1994b, 336 (priestesses of Athena Polias), Turner 1983, 244-83 (Athena Polias). For revised dates or precisions and further information on some of the inscriptions with names of priestesses of Athena Polias between the mid-third and the late second century BC, see Tracy 1990, 259 (IG, II2, 928), 19.58. 60 (II2, 3473), 19.141. 175.179f. (II2, 3477), 13.183 (II2, 1136). For the development of cults and priesthoods in Hellenistic Athens, see Parker 1996, 256-281; for changes and regional differences in the epigraphical evidence for female priesthoods in Hellenistic times in and outside Athens, see Horster 2006.

58 Phanostrate IG, II2, 1456 in 341/340 BC; [Nik]ylla IG, II2, 4601 in 326/325 BC. For list with names of known priestesses, see the previous note. The inscribed evidence for statues of arrephoroi starts in the 220s, see Turner 1983, 343-350; Donnay 1997.

59 IG, I 3, 953 (Agora, XXXI, 187, no. 1). Clinton 1974, 69 argues, that she is a priestess (in the dedication with a poetic title in accordance with the elegiac meter) of the Eleusinian cult and had a role in the secret telete.

60 Theano: Plut., Alcib., 22 and 33. For the few known priestesses, see Clinton 1974, 68-76, Turner 1983, 284-300.

61 For an overview of male and female priesthoods attested in Classical Athens, see Garland 1984, 86-108.

62 IG, I3, 35, 36. For the instalment and salary of the priestess, Parker 1996, 125-127, for the development of cult and temple, Mark 1993, partly criticised by Gill 2001.

63 IG, I3, 136, 383 with commentaries of M. H. Jameson, for the context of the new or expanded cult of Bendis, see Parker 1996, 171-175.

64 IG, II2, 1356 (LSCG, 28). The names of the other gods and deities are not preserved in the fragmentary text.

65 Outside Athens, a fourth-century complaint of a priestess of Demeter in Arkesine (Amorgos) about sacrifices (?) was perhaps made by herself, but the fragmentary inscription is not decisive on that point, IG, XII, 7,4 (LSCG, 102). Dillon 2002, 79 notes this inscription as the only evidence for a female priest’s own such report.

66 IG, II2, 659,17, see also above note 41; SEG, 33, 115.

67 IG, II2, 1361.

68 Hierophant and daduch served together with the priestess: with prosopographical lists, see Clinton 1974, 10-67.

Auteur

Alte Geschichte, Humbodt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

© Ausonius Éditions, 2010

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